BY JULIE SEYLER
I take reams of photos when I’m painting because I usually do not have an end vision in my head, and therefore, like to document its story. Sometimes, I start a new work simply because there is leftover, pristine oil paint on the palette. I cannot bear to toss it, so I put it on canvas, and figure it will work out. Oil paint is incredibly forgiving. All mistakes can be painted over.
What evolved into “Crash Landing,” was started because of leftover paint from “Muscle Chick,” the work that accompanied Frank’s post on women’s well-toned biceps. It developed as I nursed my disappointment over canceled vacation plans, and was finished soon after I was told my hip surgery had been completely successful. So this is the story:
On September 29, we had to cancel our trip to Bali because of the absence of cartilage in my left hip. Calling our travel agent, Diane Embree, at Michael’s Travel Center, to say “stop all arrangements,” broke my heart, and completely bummed Steve out. We knew this was a possibility, since I was first diagnosed with bone-on-bone arthritis in July. But I had been planning this trip since March, and was absolutely determined to go. We figured that between my pure obstinacy, and a few cortizone shots, we’d get through an 18-hour flight, a climb of Borobdubur and the running from the Komodo dragons. By the end of September, when I was in daily, excruciating pain, sensibility kicked in. We didn’t want to risk having a miserable experience halfway across the world.
Never, ever have I had to change travel plans because my body would not cooperate. It took me for a loop, as if the carpet had been pulled out from under me. My hip joint, not my mind, was interfering with my plans and forcing me to make a “mature” decision. It placed in high graphic relief that I was “older.” So the painting provided an escape from some of the sadness I felt. But after October 27, it lay dormant until December 23. What happened in between?
On October 29, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and knocked out the elevator, the lights and the hot water in our apartment building. We sponge-bathed, lived by flashlight, and trekked up and down ten flights of stairs every day. This was really fun with no left hip. Given the impact of the storm, I fretted over whether I was even going to be able to have the surgery, but on November 6, I entered the hospital for my prosthetic device. I was discharged on November 10 with a cane and lots of tools to help me not bend below 90 degrees. Since I worry by nature, there were regular bouts of anxiety as to whether my scar was doing well, whether my soft tissues would heal properly, whether I would ever be really pain-free again, and blah blah blah. However, on December 19, the doctor said, “You are good to go.” And on December 23, I loaded my pallete with paint and picked up a brush.
And while I thought it was done, I was all wrong:
And I know why the title, “A Crash Landing Was Safe,” makes sense. I did fly through a storm in 2012. It was my personal storm of a lot of discomfort and confusion and anxiety, and it felt like I was constantly crash landing. Looking back, I was safe all along.